Recycled Toilet Paper Helps Keep Forests Standing

By MAX CIARLONE/ecoRI News contributor

The environment is in dire straits and time is running out to save it.

This is the main message from the U.N. climate report released last fall. Human activity through all sectors of the economy is contributing to these threats. But while each of these sectors is contributing to the problem, each sector also has the opportunity to fix it. Whether that’s electric cars to save the transportation system or toilet paper made from recyclable materials to protect our forests.

Yes, toilet paper made from recycled materials can save our forests.

The Canadian boreal forest is one of the largest remaining forests in the world and provides dozens of environmental services. One of the most important of these is carbon sequestration, or the storage of carbon. The forest holds 300 billion tons of carbon, which is about 36 year’s worth of fossil-fuel emissions. This carbon is prevented from entering the atmosphere as the trees use the carbon for growth.

However, when a tree is cut down, this carbon is released and contributes to the rising levels of greenhouse gases that feed climate change.

One of the common purposes for deforestation is paper production. And, more specifically, tissue-paper production. But we don’t need to use fresh-cut wood to clean up our messes. Companies can source their tissue paper from recycled paper instead. Some businesses have already incorporated recycled fibers into their products, but other companies could make the same commitment, especially local corporations such as CVS, which is headquartered in Rhode Island and sells products from the Procter & Gamble Co., which has scored poorly in its sustainability initiatives.

Until every company can make this commitment, use the National Resources Defense Council for a list of companies that are doing their part to lessen their impact.

Max Ciarlone is the MASSPIRG campus organizer at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.